In 1963 my mother was born in Wollongong, Australia, she was the oldest of three children to immigrant parents who came to Australia from Macedonia in 1958. She grew up in a 1930s weatherboard tin roof 3 bedroom house in Corrimal. When questioned about her memories of watching TV, she recalls the TV set being on the floor in the family living room in front of a couch against a wall. She fondly remembers that it was an effort to change the channels on the varnished mahogany timber TV set which balanced on 4 timber legs. Due the TV having no remote control, when turning the knob on the TV set the black and white TV screen would flick on and off. She said, “The TV screen clarity and sound from back then to now have improved dramatically.”
When she moved into a newly built house at the age of 14 her TV watching experience changed. In 1975 her parents purchased a brand new coloured TV set and on top of it sat a photograph of the happy family of 5 dressed in their Sunday best. There was only one TV in the house which resulted in many arguments over what TV shows to watch.
Before starting school in the mornings she would watch cartoons such as Road Runner and Tom & Jerry. On a hot summer afternoon she would sit with an ice block alongside her siblings and watch Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, Lost in Space and Batman. Asking my mother about TV shows she used to watch as a child brought back memories of the TV shows theme song. “Nanananana Batman… Batman, Batman,” she sings with a smile. One of her favourite TV shows was the Thunderbirds, a science-fiction show with puppets. My mother reminisced the episodes when the host of the TV show Romper Room held a magic mirror and would great the children by a selection of names daily. “It made my day when she would say ‘Hello Suzie.’”
If school homework was not complete or if she misbehaved the TV would be banned. But she always seemed to manage to finish her homework by the time her father came home from day shift at BHP Steelworks. Her smile would be from ear to ear when her father approved her homework and she was allowed to watch Adventure Island. “I was excited and happy watching my favourite TV shows,” she said.
Watching TV was a family and social experience. The whole family would sit on the couch and watch Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Hogan’s Heroes and The Brady Bunch. With her cousins they would argue about which girl in the show they would be. Of course my mother chose Marcia because like her she was the oldest of the girls.
Growing up as a teenager she enjoyed watching soap operas such as Young and the Restless and the Days of Our Lives. “Oh I could not miss an episode!” she said. My mother looked to Actresses on various TV shows for inspiration, “I always wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel.” Getting all her latest fashion and hairstyles she would religiously watch Dallas and Dynasty. On the odd occasion she would watch action shows like Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum. She knew not to interrupt her Dad when he watched his favourite criminal shows Homicide and Division 4.
A comedy show brought the family together e.g. the Blankety Blank, Hey Hey it’s Saturday, The Don lane Show and Family Feud. The family living room would transform into a dance floor when the shows Bandstand and Young Talent Time played.
The biggest hit with the family was old Hollywood movies starring Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Days. “James Dean was one of the most handsome man to take over the big screen.” Not to mention the crush she had on Elvis Presley and Paul Newman.
Although the shows my mother and I watched as a young child were completely different. The universal theme that ties our TV experience together is happiness. As my mother reminisced about her early childhood experiences it triggered her to remember the song lyrics to her favourite shows. I had an epiphany that our childhood TV memories were not only the best but brought the family closer together.
Matthew’s Island of Misfit Toys 2012, TV happiness shared by all the family!, image, Matthew’s Island of Misfit Toys, viewed 10 August 2014, https://mattsko.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/